Resilience: Strengthening Resilience for Travel Nurses

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By Jilly Hyndman

November 5, 2020

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Strengthening Resilience

We’ve come through half a year of uncertainty…and chaos. One of the tools that can help us continue to navigate these trying times is our old friend, resilience. As travel nurses, having resilience is vital. Your work environment and assignments are ever-changing, even more so now, due to the pandemic.

Resilience Defined

A typical definition of resilience is the ability to recover from and integrate adversity, setbacks, or surprises. I like the image of riding a wave, like a surfer: when we can surf the ups and downs of life, we build strength and skills to help us stay on top of the wave, and when we fall, to get back on the board and try again. Like a wave in the ocean, we can’t control what happens in life; all we can do is respond.

Building Resilience

The great news about resilience is that it’s like a muscle that can be strengthened through a process of continuous growth; you may never be done, but you can keep getting better at it.

Resilience depends both on inner and outer resources to be properly nourished and bolstered. The internal conversations, beliefs, and resourcefulness we have can be learned and practiced and are supported by external factors, such as our web of social supports, access to stabilizing services, and other environmental factors, such as political stability, access to healthcare, safe housing, and education, to name a few. It’s different for everyone, but regardless of where we are each starting, here is a simple process to follow to help strengthen your resilience.

Step 1: Acknowledge

When something bad or unexpected happens, what is your typical response? Do you acknowledge it or ignore it or just try to get past it as quickly as possible?

There’s real value in taking a moment to acknowledge what is. When we avoid or resist something, that thing has power over us. However, when we take time to name what is, we deflate some of its power and intensity. The ability to be with what is is a powerful skill and vital to building resilience.

So, when the next challenge, obstacle, or disappointment happens (because it will), take some time to ask yourself these questions:

  • What impact does this event, information, or change have on me – emotionally, physically, logistically, financially, relationally, spiritually?
  • How do I feel about it? What is the name of this feeling? (and actually feel those emotions in your body)

Please, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! If you don’t acknowledge what’s happened, it will keep nudging you in different ways until it gets your full attention. Deal with it now, so you can integrate it and move forward. The only way out is through.

Step 2: Accept

The next step in the process is to accept what is. This is difficult for many of us — we resist and regret and rail against the way things are. Here’s a distinction that may help: Accepting something doesn’t mean you condone what happened or is happening; it just means you accept that you can’t change that it happened or is happening.

When you accept what is, you free up your energy to focus on what you can control (your response to the obstacle, challenge, or loss). Acceptance can require a mindset shift to move out of resistance, and it can take some practice. Some helpful things to tell yourself might include:

  • Change is inevitable.
  • This, too, shall pass.
  • I cannot control what happened/is happening to me; only my response to it.
  • I can do hard things.

One of the most helpful tools I’ve used for several years is the silver linings mindset. I ask myself: What is the learning in this experience? What is the gift of this happening to (or for) me? This shifts me out of victim thinking and into empowered thinking.

Accepting what is, especially when it is bad and full of uncertainty, is difficult. It just is. Once you can begin to accept, you can move on to the next step of strengthening resilience.

Step 3: Assess

Assessing is the step where you shift from reacting to responding. It’s when you begin to look forward and formulate a plan so you can move from uncertainty to possibility. It’s time for your logical, rational, hard-working brain to step up to the plate.

Ask yourself the following questions to assess what you want and what you’re working with: 

  • What do I want? Or, What’s the best I can hope for?
  • What do I have control or command over? What are my choices?
  • What are my skills and capabilities related to this?
  • Who and what are my current supports, and what other supports might I need?
  • What can I let slide right now so I can direct my energy to this plan?

Based on your assessment, formulate your plan of action. Then move on to the final step.

Step 4: Act

You guessed it: the final step is to take action. This action might be doing something or not doing anything based on your needs, capacity, and assessment. Maybe all you do is keep surviving. You focus on what you can take off your list of responsibilities. Maybe you reach out for a connection with another human. This is not necessarily a time to take on more, or new, or big….unless it is for you.

One of my favorite frameworks for creating a realistic action plan that you can actually implement is to keep it simple by asking yourself these three questions:

  • What can I STOP?
  • What can I START?
  • What can I SHIFT?

Begin with the easiest first step, and build from there.

As this pandemic continues for the foreseeable future, circle back through the 4 A’s as needed to absorb new challenges that come your way. Because they will come, and take note of how quickly you bounce back or don’t—no judgment; only grace. Remember: We’re all doing the best we can with what we have available right now. That’s enough. You’re enough. We’re all enough. We’ll get through this, and we’ll learn valuable things along the way.

If you are a new traveler or looking into becoming a Travel Nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step by Step

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